Month: March 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

My Daughter The Maoist

I think I’ve shared this before, but since it’s being repeated more and more, it deserves another mention. M. has this strange habit of calling certain things “the peoples’….” The most common example is “the peoples’ water.” She always wants “the peoples’ water.” We have no idea where this came from. I’ve actually paid attention to some of her shows this week to see if I can pick the reference up there, but have yet to find a connection. It really gets ridiculous when that is the first thing she says when she wakes up from a nap. “Now I want jellybeans and the peoples’ water, daddy!”
Tuesday night, she woke up screaming and coughing at about 4:00. S. and I both went running in, and once we got her calmed down, guess what she asked for? “I need Kleenex and the peoples’ water, daddy.”
It makes me laugh, but I’m dying to know where it came from. When she gets a little older, I’ll explain that she sounds like a Maoist and while it’s fine to investigate revolutionary theory, she’s liable to get her parents tossed out of Hamilton County if she can’t moderate her tone a bit.
Another hilarious and unexplainable thing is how she reacts when we drive by a shopping area that sits on the way to Broadripple and downtown Indianapolis. Each time we go by, she raises her voice and asks/says, “Is dat Kansas City? Is dat daddy’s Kansas City? Yeah, it is! It daddy’s Kansas City!” and then she laughs and repeats it. We have no idea why she says that. There’s nothing in the area that should cause a two-and-a-half year old to start talking about Kansas City. Well, there is a Wal-Mart, but she doesn’t understand the connection between the retail giant and the Royals yet.
My only theory is that one day, when we drove by, she was talking about Kansas City, asked if the shopping area was Kansas City about 40 times, and finally I just said yes, it was Kansas City, to get her to be quiet. So now she thinks that’s where I go when I go to visit Grandpa Tom. When we explain, sometime this summer, that we’re all going to Kansas CIty, she’ll probably think that’s great because it’s 10 minutes from home. That could make the next seven hours and 50 minutes of our trip west very interesting.
Beware of what you tell your toddlers!

Smart Kid

On our last trip to the library, we picked up a CD of Beatles songs sung by kids. A lot of them are completely intolerable to adults, but hey, I had to start indoctrinating the girls with good music. Each time we hop into the family truckster for a journey somewhere, M. asks, “Are we listening to Beatles music, daddy?”

This morning, C. and I were watching VH1 Classic while waiting for M. to wake up. When M. finally rose and came downstairs, I laid her on the floor in front of the TV to change her diaper. She pointed to the TV and asked, “Is that the Beatles, daddy?” I looked up and what video was on? John Lennon’s “Mind Games.” Pretty impressive catch by the kid! Not only was he a Beatle, but she caught one of his poorer solo efforts! Look at the big brain on M.!

Of course, she thinks everyone is the Beatles now, but I choose to think at some deeper level, she made the connection. Ironic, since in my post-game haze Saturday, I laid on the couch and watched most of “Imagine: John Lennon” and S. suggested I show it to the girls.

She also gets confused about what, exactly, Beatles are sometimes. We’ll be driving along and she’ll ask, “Are these the Beatles daddy?” “Yes.” “It not the Beatles daddy, Beatles are outside the van!” I haven’t explained the difference between Beatles and beetles yet.

Thud

The end of the season always sucks. Unless your team is the last one standing, in our winner-takes-all world, we too easily forget about the bulk of the season and focus on the ending. And in most cases, endings are never good. Is it better to lose by 50? To lose by one at the buzzer? Something in between? Any way the season ends and something that brought us great joy has been taken away.

Not much to say about the KU-UCLA game. I can’t sleep, so I thought I’d try to tap out some thoughts, since I just lay in bed thinking about the game. And, believe it or not, I’m taking this about 1000 times better than I took losses as recently as four years ago (The real reason I can’t watch North Carolina games or give Roy Williams a break? The fact he waited until we were down 20 to put Kirk Hinrich on Gerry McNamara. Seriously, I’m more pissed about that, still, than our loss tonight. What the fuck was he thinking?). I’ve been trading e-mails with people, reading through a discussion list, and come to some kind of peace about the game. When you miss that many relatively easy shots and your opponent knocks down every difficult shot, well, it’s not your night. And in March, that means it’s not your year. I thought we played a little too fast most of the night, which caused many of those close misses. But give UCLA credit, they were challenging a good portion of those shots. I thought the difference in experience levels was a major factor. UCLA played for the national championship last year. Our guys flamed out against Bradley. UCLA didn’t get phased by our early runs, or the fact we were taking the ball away from them at will. They sat back, had confidence in their defense, and expected to remain close enough so that if they could put together a run, they would seize control. That’s exactly what happened. I wonder if the seedings had any factor. I always thought KU getting the #2 to Arizona’s #1 in 2003 was a major factor in our victory over them in that year’s regional finals. Might UCLA have been playing with a little chip on their shoulders? Who knows, but in a game of teams this closely matched, it might have helped.

I thought the biggest shot of the game was Arron Afflalo’s three at the buzzer of the first half. The second biggest shot was his drive to the hoop just a few moments earlier. First, his three gave them a four point lead after being outplayed for almost the entire half. Second, both shots got him fired up and confident. Brandon Rush had been in his face the entire first half, picking up two blocks along the way. Afflalo, not known as a guy who excels when he’s facing adversity, was on the ropes. But the lay-up and the three reminded him that he’s an All-American, and he carried the Bruins from there.

I think Afflalo is a fine example for B-Rush to follow should he decide to stay at KU for another year. Like Rush, Afflalo arrived in Westwood as a high school all-everything and faced the pressures that came with that. Not until his junior year did Arron really blossom. Brandon’s had a fine career, so far, but I keep thinking there is more he can do. I like to think if he returns, he’s going to be the guy who hits the huge shots that get KU to San Antonio next March.

In fact, the entire UCLA team can be an example for KU. Let’s assume, for a moment, that everyone is back. One more McDonald’s AA will join the squad adding another pure low post guy. Another guard for some depth. You figure Darrell Arthur and Sherron Collins make the typical jumps from frosh-to-soph. And every other player refines their game a bit. As UCLA has carried the memory of that beat-down they took from Florida last year, hopefully KU can carry the memory of this game with them. The realization of how close they were, how a few plays here and there can make a difference. How everyone has to come to play every minute of every game. Perhaps that, along with another year of experience, is the difference next spring.

And now comes the waiting game. A month of waiting and wondering who, if any, KU players will declare for the draft. I look at them and don’t see a player ready to be a solid NBA player yet. But that isn’t why most kids declare or why teams draft people. Fortunately, it’s expected to be a very deep draft year. Maybe Brandon Rush is a top ten pick in a weak year (last year). This year? I don’t know. Julian Wright is listed as high as #3 on some lists. He’s said he’s coming back for sure. We’ll see if that’s the case after he thinks about it some more. Might Sasha Kaun decide to go play in Europe? Might Darnell Jackson think a CBA gig, or one in Europe as well, is the right move for his family? Pins and needles before we can really start dreaming about next year.

To wrap up, I have to take a big picture look. This team got much, much better over the course of the season. They were great fun to watch as they grew as individuals and as a team. They became one of my favorite KU teams in recent memory. I think the coach, who now apparently has an Elite Eight monkey on his back, proved that he’s worthy of running the program. The team finally took on Bill Self’s personality this year, which I think had a lot to do with their success. He’s not perfect, but he’s damn good and I think he’s got the program as good as its been by every measure except for Final Four appearances. And those should come. There will be some disappointment associated with the final result, but this team gave me too much joy to declare the season a failure because of one game.

Worst Game Ever

Worst Game Ever
And I have no idea how I’m going to sleep tonight.
I hate grinders. There’s nothing fun about them. Granted, I’m just happy with the win this time of year. But if we’re going to win by three, I’d much rather it be 82-79, or something that actually resembles modern basketball like that.

There was a point, midway through the second half, where I started to feel like the hoop gods were rearing their ancient heads and preparing to punish us again. A few funky plays had just gone SIU’s way, and it felt like the karma tide was flowing their way. But, we quickly grabbed a key rebound and threw it away. Missed some free throws (how very KU!). Committed some dumb fouls. I realized, for the handful of funky plays, we were also kicking the game away on our own, which in a strange way, heartened me. We weren’t losing because of mystic forces but because we couldn’t relax and play smart basketball.
Then, Bill Self made a couple key adjustments (As opposed to our former coach, who would have run the same plays all night, ensuring our ruin), we reclaimed the lead, even extended a bit, then hung on despite our horrendous effort at the line. Seriously, if you told me before the game we would shoot 60% for the game, while SIU shot 37%, I would have guessed we win by 20. But all those freaking turnovers, some because of great defense, some because of silly play, kept giving SIU easy points and denying any rhythm for KU on offense.
I’m just happy with the win. I’ll take another ugly one Saturday, although I’m not sure my blood pressure will be able to handle it.
Which reminds me, my step-dad has a good friend who is a bit older, he’s pushing 70 I think, and he has heart problems. A few years back, his doctor told him he could no longer watch KU games because they were making his heart do too much work. Have I seen my future?
Was it just me, or did SIU look like they just came out of a bar fight? A couple guys had black eyes. A couple more nasty bruises on their faces. I’m pretty sure another guy was walking around with a broken pool cue. But give them credit, they play amazing defense that is as disruptive in terms of getting other teams away from what they want to do as any I’ve seen this year. As Jay Bilas wisely noted, KU plays great defense too, but it’s more about making shots as difficult as possible. SIU doesn’t even want you to take the shot.
If nothing else, KU should be prepared for whatever they face on Saturday.
I can’t wait to hear the whining about the three points SIU lost because of the refs tomorrow morning. KU missed nine free throws. SIU’s guards were mugging the KU guards all night while Darrell Arthur was called for a foul any time he breathed on Randal Falker. I think those things evened out over the course of the night.
Fun fact I read after the game: Jamaal Tatum can name every song on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I bet there aren’t many guys playing D1 ball who can say that!
SIU has a Tyrone Green. I wonder if he’s ever heard of the Eddie Murphy character of the same name? “C-I-L-L…my landlord!”
Ugh, Acie Law. What a way to go out. Tough shot, but he always makes that. And then Memphis gets 180 chances on their final possession. Rough way for A&M to go out, and for me to lose my first Final Four team.
Do we have to finally start giving Memphis some credit? This is two Elite Eights in a row. I wonder if we’ve discounted how hungry they after shooting themselves out of the UCLA game last year and having lost a few players to the draft. And they’ve got more talent coming in next year. Coach Cal needs to get into the Big East or something and quick if he ever wants to get any respect there. Maybe the Big 12 could kick Baylor out and take Memphis?
Maybe Bill Self should take a page out of Coach Cal’s book (they were at KU together, so they can share). Memphis shoots free throws even worse than KU. Before the tournament, Cal decided not to practice them anymore. He just asked his players to spend a few minutes each night envisioning themselves shooting the perfect free throw. They’re shooting around 70% for the tournament so far. Brilliant.
Jinx time: Tennessee is killing Ohio State. +17 with 4:00 to play in the first. Oden has three fouls and the Vols are raining three down on the Buckeyes. The battle of Tennessee for a Final Four bid? +19 now. This is March Madness. On CBS. HAHAHAHA!!!
You know what call has been consistently missed in the tournament? Guys stepping on the baseline. One of the SIU players was clearly on the line before Tatum’s last three. An Ohio State player just had half his foot across the line and the ref didn’t bother to look down to see it.
Another annoying commercial, the Coke commercial with the Virgina Tech fan. Why a Virginia Tech fan during basketball season? Football season, sure. But I doubt the superstition of some Hokie is going to get people to run out and grab a Coke (unless your name is Roy Williams). Now if it was a Florida fan, sales might increase dramatically. They’ve got some good karma down there in Gainesville.
Big coaching moves today. Tubby Smith leaves Kentucky for Minnesota, which is basically a big fuck you to all the Kentucky fans who have been riding him. There’s no doubt UK has fallen back a bit. But as far as I know, he’s done a solid job in the classroom, has kept Kentucky off of probation (which is harder than it sounds), and run a solid program. He was inches away from a Final Four two years ago. Randolph Morris was a huge recruiting win that just hasn’t panned out as expected. But, it may have been too late to turn over his staff and infuse it with young energy to get the pipeline flowing again. Tubby’s always seemed like a good guy, so I hope he is appreciated in Minnesota. If Florida wins again this year, is there any chance that Billy Donovan moves back to Lexington? Might the rumors, unless he comes right out and says “I’m stayin’” next week, cause his big men to miss 12 key free throws in Atlanta? And if not him, who? I can’t imagine Billy Gillispie or Rick Barnes leaving A&M and UT. Rick Pitino isn’t walking through those doors, folks. Travis Ford?
Steve Alford leaving Iowa for New Mexico is an interesting move, to say the least. Leaving the Big 10 for, well, whatever conference New Mexico is in, isn’t exactly a step up. But, from some of the stories floating around today, Alford hasn’t been liked for a long time in Iowa City. I guess with Kelvin Sampson in Bloomington, he figured the IU job is locked up for ten years or so, so he might as well get far, far away.
Have I mentioned that I love the old school Nikes most schools have broken out for the tournament? Very 1986 Air Team Convention-ish. I had a poster with the shoes of all the Nike teams in that year’s tourney. After Georgetown set the standard the previous year, the rest of the nation caught up in 1986.
I kind of like the lack of any halftime report on CBS. Although, it does make it weird when they talk for 30 seconds and then thank you for watching the halftime report.
Uh-oh, Ohio State cuts it to 11, with free throws coming. Make it nine and Lofton is forcing shots. Now it’s seven. We got ourselves a game.
Most annoying CBS tactic this year: holding play in one game while doing a quick update on another. Just before Brandon Rush nearly airballed a free throw tonight, CBS checked-in on the A&M-Memphis game. Before they went away, Brandon was standing at the line, all six players were lined up, and they were waiting for the ref to toss him the ball. Ten seconds checking the other game, cut back, and the ref is just then giving Brandon the ball. If you’re going to make the players wait for the network, don’t line them up until the network is ready. There were a couple other times I noticed this tonight.
My Lord there are a bunch of deep threes in the UT-OSU game. Four point game. I’m pretty sure Bruce Pearl is completely insane, too. Sometimes you have to let your players play.
OSU cuts it to one, nine minutes into the second half, then Oden gets foul #4 and goes back to the bench.
OSU leads. This game sucks. I’m turning the volume down and listening to music I’ve obtained through quasi-legal means for the remainder.

Changing Neighborhoods

It was 80 here today. Yet we still have a pile of month-old snow out in front of our house.

Well, all good things must come to an end. Or so the cliche tells us. This blog is going to die a quick, unsympathetic death in about a month. Don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging and filling your free time with the genius that is me, just not here.

I’ve been frustrated by many aspects of Typepad over the last six months or so. Some trouble posting perfectly legitimate files. A couple downtimes. An apparent focus on business blogging needs rather than those of us who are just dorks writing in our pajamas. Seriously, if I get one more e-mail telling me how to improve my business through Typepad… So, with my account coming up for renewal next month, it seems like a good time to shut this down and depart for greener pastures. Or at least a different pasture.

I picked Typepad two years ago because Blogger sucked, I wanted some freedom to make my blog look pretty, and I wanted more reliability. I didn’t mind paying for a blogging service when I was posting at least once a day, if not more. But now that I’ve scaled back my writing a bit, I can’t justify the expense.

Blogger has improved, thanks to Google finally sinking some money into it. But it still kind of sucks. They offer the same generic themes they’ve always had, and I’m too lazy to learn any HTML to create my own. I investigated three other free services, including the free service offered by Typepad. It is verrrrry sexy. Nice to look at, easy to navigate, and probably more reliable than the other platforms. But, it has two fundamental problems: 1) it doesn’t support Safari, my browser of choice, for posting and B) in order to comment, you must be a member. It’s “free and easy” to join, but I didn’t want all of my loyal readers to have to sign up for an account just to add your comments. Especially since that means you would get e-mails from the hosting company each month.

I thought about rolling the dice and learning how to code myself, either using Moveable Type or WordPress. But that would mean dropping money on a hosting plan, and the whole idea is to get away from that. And did I mention I’m lazy?

In the end, I picked WordPress’ free service. I’ve been playing around with it for about a month, and it seems like it will work. I’m still stuck with their skins, but they have more to offer than Blogger so I can hopefully vary them from time-to-time. There are a few limitations that are annoying, but I can live with them. Best of all, I can import all my posts from this blog into the new one, so we won’t lose any history. I’m not sure if the comments will come with, but hey, you know what you said. Perhaps I’ll read back and repost some of the greatest comments hits from the past two plus years.

Next, came the struggle of what to name the new blog. I wanted it to be something kind of clever, easy to remember, yet semi-anonymous. I thought I had a really cool name, but I decided it wasn’t terribly clever after all, and it was confusing to type in correctly. So I picked one that all of you should be able to recall quickly but gives me some anonymity. Oh, and it lends itself to a few catchy little acronyms. MMMM, acronyms!

I’ve been double-posting for about a week, just to test skins and whatnot, so you’re welcome to go check it out at anytime. I’ll probably blog here through Good Friday, then export all the historical files across and shut this down. So go take a look:

 

Super Sunday

Is there any way we can just have Kansas and Texas play every week? We would be guaranteed something great every time, based on what we’ve been treated to over the past eight days.

What a game in OKC on Sunday. Unlike the previous game, which determined the regular season champion and the top three seeds for the conference tournament, this one really was for little more than pride. If that’s what it was for, every player on the court played for every ounce of their pride rather than coast until the games really matter next week.

Just like last week, Kevin Durant fueled a furious Texas start, with his 22 first half points getting the Horns up by as many as 22. However, he had less help this time than he did in Lawrence, and following a 24-7 run to close the half, KU trailed by only five. The next 25 minutes were instant classic quality basketball. Texas lead by as many as nine. KU came back. Then Texas extended again. Then KU got close one more time. Finally, KU took the lead and even extended out to a five point lead twice. Texas lead by four in the final minute. But, for once, KU hit their free throws, got a huge three from Mario Chalmers to tie the game, and survived one last shot from Durant (who was clearly spent for most of the second half) to go to overtime.

In overtime, KU willed themselves to the win. They hit the shots, the free throws, made the defensive plays, and basically did everything they had to do to win. The signature play came when DJ Augustin lined up a three that would have tied the game and Brandon Rush came from nowhere to block it. It was like Hakim Warrick swatting away Michael Lee’s late three in New Orleans four years ago. The clock ran out, the nets came down, and there were “tears in his eyes, I guess…”

Fantastic game by two great teams and a ton of great players. Every KU player contributed to the win. Sasha Kaun didn’t do much, but he worked his ass off on several key plays to keep the ball alive. Darnell Jackson was almost trying too hard, throwing the ball away a couple times and getting called for a couple needless fouls, but he also had a few huge plays. Sherron Collins shook off his late-season funk to lead the team in scoring and keyed their second half drive. Brandon Rush was huge in slowing Kevin Durant down. Durant was a different player with Rush chasing him around.

Most importantly, KU played a significant portion of the second half without Julian Wright, who sat with his fourth foul. Mario Chalmers fouled out in overtime. Yet, KU won. It was a complete team victory and perhaps the final lesson this team needed to learn in order to make a deep run in the NCAAs.

After keeping my expectations down most of the season, I now see a team poised to do something great. Some of my sarcastic readers might label greatness as just getting out of the first round. Well, that would be a nice start. But this team is too good not to be playing on the last day of the regional, at worst. They have size, they can shoot, the play hellacious D, they rebound, and they have not just depth but good depth. There are some fine teams in their regional, but if KU plays well, they should beat every one of them. If they get nervous, or play sloppy, or read their clippings too much, there are plenty of teams that can send them home early. But they should have learned that lesson last year. The odds of the tournament are against them. The odds of their performance are against them – they’ve won 11 straight games and winning 17, or even 15 straight, is extremely tough this time of year. (Along those lines, don’t expect Memphis to go deep. They’ve won 22 straight.) But, I like this team and I think they’ve got something special left in them.

Kevin Durant. What else is there to say? If he knew how to pace himself a little bit, KU might not have pulled this one out. It’s almost a shame he’s going pro, because there’s no way he’ll look this good in the NBA right away. He’s a joy to watch, even when he’s dropping 37 on your team.

I should have kept track of all the silly things I heard from announcers this weekend. A few did stand out. Ron Franklin, as he has done in recent years, struggled calling the Big 12 tournament. Most egregious was his insistence on calling Julian Wright “Julius.” Now, Julian definitely has some 1970s in his game, but lacking the Afro, I’m not sure how he could be confused with the good Doctor. An especially bad miscall came the first time KU cut the Texas lead to two. Franklin called out, as the mostly KU crowd roared, “KU can tie it or take the lead on this possession.” As he said that, Texas walked the ball up the court right in front of him. I guess he was too busy to actually watch the game. Throw in some of his typical miscalls of fouls, two pointers he thought were three, and completely missing whistles, well, it was as if Fred White or Jay Randolph was doing the game.

My biggest peeve of the weekend were all these talking heads who kept insisting that the NCAA tournament was about getting the best 65 teams in the field. No, it’s not, and never has been. It’s about the committee determining who the best 35 teams are who remain after the 31 automatic bids are doled out. It’s like that every year, yet every year Dick Vitale appears on ESPN’s selection show, screaming about how this school or that school got screwed because they weren’t allowed in when they were clearly one of the best 65 teams in the country.
Another good Vitale line came after he pronounced the West region as the most difficult, and Jay Bilas politely disagreed with him. On his next camera shot, Vitale screamed that there were a lot of teams with “tremendous history and tradition” in the West, and that would make them play better. Huh? As a KU fan, I can confirm that having a fabulous traditional and history does not win you games in March. Ask Bucknell and Bradley. Just because Kentucky is one of the greatest programs in the history of the game does not mean this year’s mediocre squad is suddenly going to turn into world beaters. In fact, I think Villanova is going to run them out of the gym and the ‘Nova ‘Cats will be KU’s biggest test in the West. Vitale’s a clown.

Kudos to Bob Huggins, and Lord knows I’m loathe to give him credit for anything, for a couple of his calls over the weekend. First, he left his blackjack dealer vest at home this weekend. Good choice. Then, after K-State didn’t get into the NCAAs, he said, “We should have won more games.” No complaining, no histrionics. Just telling the truth. Well done. Now go have a cocktail. Although, before Sunday, he did lobby saying teams were always told to play the best competition and then noted KSU had three losses to KU this season. True, but that doesn’t balance their truly awful non-conference schedule, that even with a couple decent games scattered in, was one of the worst in all of Division I. Probably not totally his fault, since some of the schedule was set before he arrived. But still, you can’t complain too much when you loaded up on such crappy opponents early in the year.

A couple quick oddities from the brackets. Ohio State is the #1 seed in the South and are potentially rewarded with a match-up against Texas A&M in San Antonio to get to Atlanta? And UCLA is a #2 seed, but never have to leave California? Hopefully UCLA will pull a KU and choke away that home-state court advantage. As I said, oddities rather than outrages.

Enough. A couple days of hoops detox, in which I’ll try to remain calm when my alma mater is slighted by one talking head or another and concentrate on spring training news. I guess I actually have to pay attention to the play-in game this year, so that’s some work on Tuesday. I’ve got brackets to fill. And Thursday, the real work begins. Good thing this is my spring break week. It’s going to be a busy one.

Music

It’s been a fantastic music year, so far. The Shins’ new album is excellent, as are those from The Broken West, Feist, and Son Volt. Leaked tracks from new albums by Modest Mouse, Wilco, and Maximo Park all show tremendous promise. Lurking in the distance is a new Radiohead album.
However, so far this year it’s been all about the new Arcade Fire album, Neon Bible, which was officially released today. Although I’ve been listening to the album for nearly six weeks (I did buy a legal copy from iTunes this morning), I chose not to write about it until it officially hit the shelves. I can finally say, to the world, that the album is stunning, living up to every ounce of hype they’ve received (See: pretty much every major music magazine and web site, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Saturday Night Live, etc.).

Many reviews say the album does not live up to their last release, Funeral. I say nonsense to that talk. Neon Bible is much, much better than Funeral, and Funeral was a damn fine album. The problem with Funeral was it was rather uneven and it was achingly obvious what the best track was. I don’t remember ever reading a review that didn’t agree that “Rebellion (Lies)” was the stand-out track. On Neon Bible, and one of five or six tracks can be reasonably argued to be the finest effort.
However, to me, the entire album revolves around track five, “Intervention.” I first heard “Intervention” on December 27, when a radio-rip from a BBC broadcast spread around the globe. As the final notes from the massive church organ faded away, the BBC announcer said, “If that doesn’t get you man, if that doesn’t get you somewhere special, <sigh>, well I feel sorry for you.” I was hooked, even without the prodding from the DJ. A couple weeks later a better copy hit the Internets, and by late January I owned a near CD-quality version. It’s safe to say I love the song, because its play count has already rocketed past 40. It’s also a reasonable assumption that there will be a new most played track in my iTunes library before July 4th. It’s an amazing, amazing track.
Fortunately, most of the rest of the album nearly matches that peak. “No Cars Go,” sounds like Unforgettable Fire-era U2. “Antichrist Television Blues” rolls with an undeniable, locomotive beat. The organ from “Intervention” returns, even more pronounced, for “My Body is a Cage.”
Arcade Fire manages to avoid the pretentiousness found all-too-often in indie rock while maintaining their indie cred, throws some serious pop hooks at your ears, along with some moments of musical genius. It’s a powerful, fantastic album that will be difficult to top as the year’s best.

 

The Big Showdown

Collected semi-coherent ramblings after Saturday’s Kansas-Texas game.

What’s the old saying, there are two sports in Texas: football and spring football? That can be applied to about any level or school in Texas. High school, the University of Texas or Texas A&M. That may be changing a little, with the emergence of Texas over the past 7-8 years and the more recent ascent of A&M in basketball. It’s not fair, in a way, that Texas fans got to watch Vince Young for three years and now get to watch Kevin Durant. There ought to be a law or something. Anyway, I kept thinking Saturday, during the most excellent Texas-Kansas game, that I hope Texas fans have enjoyed this season. They’ve been lucky to see their team involved in three of the best games played this year: the triple-OT game at Oklahoma State, the double OT game against A&M last week, and then Saturday’s game. Of course, they’ve gone 1-2 in those three games, so they might not fully appreciate the qualities of those games. But, since most UT fans are far more concerned with football, this was probably the perfect season for them: three insanely entertaining games, nearly sneaking into the Big 12 title, and a team that is a serious threat to go deeeeep into the NCAA tournament.

What to say about Saturday’s game? Ironically, Friday night I had a dream about the Arizona-Kansas game in Allen Fieldhouse back in 2003. In that game, KU roared out to a nearly 30 point lead in the first half, with every shot they threw up going in. Over the last five minutes of the first half, though, and then through the second half, KU’s shots started clanging off of the rim, and Salim Stoudamire keyed a huge UA comeback that resulted in a 20 point win. A 50 point swing between two top ten teams. As Texas seemed to be hitting every shot, no matter how well guarded, in the first half Saturday, I kept thinking of that dream, and hoping the tide would change. As good as Arizona was four years ago, Texas was even better in the first half. At times, it seemed the ball was barely getting into their shooters’ hands before they were swishing another three.

This was my first chance to watch kevin Durant for an entire game. Wow. Through all my glimpses of him this year, as good as he was, he was never as good as he was in the first half Saturday. That was about as effortless of a 25-point outburst as I’ve ever seen. Even with perhaps the best person in the country to guard him getting in his face -Julian Wright’s length, while not as crazy as Durant’s, is well-suited for at least disrupting Kevin a little – KD was tossing in 25 footers like Larry Bird after practice. Julian might as well not have been there for all the disdain Durant showed his defense. As shot-after-shot dropped, I kept thinking, “He can’t shoot like this all day.”
What was most unreal about the first half was that KU actually played a damn good half of basketball. Scored 42 points. Shot 50% from the field. Owned the boards. And yet they were down 12. As Dave Armstrong would say, wow.

The true revelation of the game, though, was Texas point guard DJ Augustin. That kid is pretty amazing, too. Texas is really turning into point guard U., as he seems like the evolutionary next step from TJ Ford and Daniel Gibson. Perhaps not as fast as those guys, but certainly a better shooter than TJ and a deeper shooter than Gibson. Not the defensive specialist TJ was, but his size allows him to get inside and do some damage. In short, he looks like a guy who’s ready for the NBA today, with no questions. TJ has turned himself into a decent NBA player, but his size will always hold him back. I’m not sure what Gibson is doing. Augustin looks like he could be a star. Go pro, DJ!

Lost in the brilliance of Durant was the exceptional job of adjusting and persevering that KU did to get back into the game and take a lead. Excellent adjustments on Durant, keeping him from getting the ball with clean looks, forcing him to drive into traffic. I kept wondering why he didn’t go post up, or why they didn’t try to set screens and have him cut to the basket. I guess when you shoot that well in the first half, it’s tough to go back to doing the dirty work needed to score in other ways.

The law of averages turning an 11-14 three point effort in the first half into a 3-16 one in the second, with two of those three coming in the last minute, helped as well. Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson were outstanding from deep, shooting KU right back into the game in the first four minutes of the second half. All the inside guys played well: when was the last time KU looked dominant inside against Texas? I thought KU was supposed to be the soft team and Texas the squad full of bruisers.

It was interesting to read the AP wire story about the game. According to it, Texas had the lead when Durant twisted his ankle and KU then went on a 24-7 run to take the lead. In fact, that 24-7 run is what wrapped around halftime, and KU was already ahead by four when he went down (they extended the lead to six on the play he slipped). When he returned to the game, KU lead by nine. So, in fact, Texas outscored KU by two points between his injury and the end of the game. But I guess it’s tough for a sports writer sitting in press row to look at the official play-by-play and get little details like that correct. (I did see the AP sent out a correction later Sunday. Didn’t stop the national view of the game being that Texas was ahead when Durant got hurt, and KU capitalized on his absence to get back into the game.)

It was a great way to end the Big 12 regular season. Both teams learned a lot about themselves going into March. KU has now faced the most unstoppable offensive force in the country, taken his best shot, adjusted and slowed him down, and turned a rout into a win. Nearly every player stepping up and making a key contribution reinforced that KU may be the best team, as in a group that plays together, in the country. Texas saw that they have to learn to play 40 minutes, actually play a little D, and not fall in love with the three. They might have the best two-man game in the country, and with Augustin and Durant’s versatility, they can play those two in nearly any style and expect to have success. Both teams have a lot to look forward to over the next five weeks, I think.

And one more thing. Is it just me, or does the Big 12 get a bad rap simply because KU, Texas, OSU, and OU have all failed to win a title when they’ve been to the Final Four since the league formed? Name a league with three teams as good as KU, Texas, and A&M. In the ACC, after UNC I have no faith in any of those schools. Virginia and Virginia Tech seem very flukey to me. The Big 10 has two, but Wisconsin isn’t likely to play at the same level they did all season with Brian Butch out. Big East? A very solid league, but not a single top tier team (Texas would run Georgetown out of the gym). Pac-10? UCLA is very good. But again, their 2-3 seeded teams just don’t match up with A&M and Texas. SEC? After Florida, it’s pretty weak this year. While the Big 12 may get much weaker after those top three teams – I think K-State and Texas Tech are both strong enough to get to the Sweet 16 given the right draw – I don’t think any league is as strong at the top. Of course, I probably just jinxed the top teams into a 1990-like washout, when KU, Mizzou, and OU, who had swapped the national #1 ranking all season, won a collective two games in the first weekend of the tournament, with all going home early. Blame me when you’re tearing up your brackets next weekend.

We Made It

Well, the blogger and his girls survived the weekend without the wife/mom. There were only a couple blow-ups each day, most involving M. refusing my orders to 1) Keep her hands off of her sister’s head, 2) stop touching her sister’s face, 3) stop pushing/pulling her sister, or 4) just getting the hell away from her sister. At least we were both consistent, me in my orders and her in her refusal to follow them.

The weekend was helped greatly by one of my sisters-in-law dropping by for about 90 minutes Friday afternoon so I could get out of the house alone for awhile (I went to Border’s and bought <a href=”http://www.soulofbaseball.com/”>Joe Posnanski’s book</a>) and then again on Saturday so my friend Coach Hebs and I could watch the KU and Purdue games. (A big shout out to Coach Hebs, who both tracked down some tremendous barbecue for the games and is in the middle of a 14-day stretch with his two girls while his wife is out of the country. Four days is no sweat compared to that. Hang in there, Coach!). Then Sunday, we ran down to her house briefly to drop off a bed frame for her roommate, which meant M. could run around there for awhile.
When S. arrived home, happy and slightly tanned after her time in Arizona, she found a house that wasn’t totally destroyed, although it had been rearranged a bit. For example, we have a fake tree, I don’t know what else to call it, in our living room. C. loves to crawl over to it, hoist herself up, and start pulling out the long fibers that make up the tree’s bed. So Thursday morning, nearly first thing, as I’m in the kitchen cleaning some bottles or getting M. some milk or something, I look in and see C. with her arms elbow deep, just pulling crap out like it’s her job, a big, slobbery grin on her face. Making matters worse, on the other side was M., who was pulling on the tree’s leaves. I shouted loud enough to make them both jump, ran in, forcefully disengaged their hands, and proceeded to drag the tree out to our sunroom, where it still sits safely behind the door. M. didn’t really care, she went about her other business. C., however, was very upset. She crawled over to the door (it’s a windowed door that looks from the living room out to the sunroom), stood against it, and yelled while smacking her palms against it for about five minutes.
In our basement, we have a sectional couch and large, square ottoman that faces the TV. C.’s been crawling up to the TV, pulling herself up, and touching the screen, which makes me crazy. Friday morning, she was doing that as M. sat in front of the TV, pulling at the black mesh material that covers the speakers. Not good. There was more yelling and forced relocation of each daughter. I then pushed the ottoman up against the TV so neither daughter could directly access it. C., again, was frustrated. She yelled back at me for a minute, then crawled to the edge of the ottoman and leaned her body across it, still trying to reach the screen. In about another month, she’ll be able to reach it, but not this time.
M., however, was impressed with my furniture moving skills.
“OOOOOOHHHH Daddy! Good job! You’re very strong, moving the people’s couch!”
I’m not sure why she called it the people’s couch, but it made me laugh. And she’s right, I am very strong.
S. was impressed too. When she came downstairs for the first time, she complimented me.
“I really like what you’ve done with the place!”
Before I could defend myself, by explaining why the furniture was moved, she cut me off, “Hey, whatever you had to do is fine with me.”
The only other downer to the weekend was the lack of sleep from my girls. C. took no naps longer than 60 minutes any day, and often just one nap in the morning. That made late afternoons and early evenings interesting exercises in keeping her awake and placated. Friday night/Saturday morning, she was up five times. I couldn’t remember if it was ok to give Benadryl to a kid who’s already on Motrin, so I held out until 5:00 when I finally gave her a half dose of Benadryl. That knocked her out until 8:30, but in the meantime, M. banged her head on the bedrail and woke up screaming at 6:45. Not a fun night. Saturday night/Sunday morning, C. did better. But I had confirmed it was ok to give her Benadryl so I dosed her at midnight when she woke for the second time. She slept until 5:00, I fed her and put her back into her bed with a couple toys. She woke me at 6:00, crying, so I topped her off and put her under her blanket. Next thing I knew, it was 9:30 and both girls were just waking up. Nice way to end the weekend!

Ocean of Noise from the album “Neon Bible” by <a href=”http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Arcade%20Fire%22″>Arcade Fire</a>

Day One

Nothing too special to report about day one. The girls were, for the most part, well-behaved. M. had a 30 minute period where she refused to stop touching C.’s head, no matter how many times I told her to stop. When I was trying to get everyone out the door for a quick trip to Target after dinner, she asked me if we were going to Costco at least 8000 times. (This is a normal trick for her, but she normally only asks about 2000 times.) She was well behaved at Target, I let her free-lance rather than ride so she could burn off some energy. Of course, she likes to run about 20 feet in front of you and look back at you instead of watching around her. One day she’s going to get plowed over by someone else who isn’t watching.
Another first I didn’t think of. I had to fix M.’s hair for the first time ever. I’m fine with washing and conditioning it. Before it got really long, I would throw some mousse into it to get the ‘fro working. But S. has always handed the pony/pigtails. Sure, I’ve watched plenty of times, but I’ve never given it a go myself. It makes my stomach hurt to think of dragging a comb through all those curls. Her hair was a disaster by the end of the day, so there was no way I could take her out looking like she did. I think S. might have given me a C+/B- for my effort, but it wasn’t completely awful. I used the comb as sparingly as possible.
Now if C. can just sleep tonight. We’ve totally reverted as the teething has kicked in. We’re back up to getting up with her twice a night. Is it wrong to triple her Motrin dose to get her through the night? Yes that’s wrong, it could kill her? Great. I better hold myself to one beer tonight.

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